|Flashback Nov. 2015.|
'A ceiling of about 500,000 people with a right to asylum per year has been discussed in Berlin' (Spiegel).
Gentiloni: As long as a certain problem primarily affects a different country, in this case Italy, one might not put it at the very top of one's list of priorities. The route for the refugees currently goes through Greece and the Balkans or through Italy; if there were a crisis in north-eastern Europe, Poland might just as well be affected. In this case we are dealing with mechanisms that we do not control. We need to change that. As Ms. Merkel has said, "We can handle it." But this "we" should be a European "we." We can't have a situation where everyone keeps criticizing the bouncer, meaning Greece.
SPIEGEL: What effect did the chancellor's refugee policies have on Italy?
Gentiloni: It had the effect of me agreeing with her. Europe can handle several hundreds of thousands of people every year who have a right to asylum.
SPIEGEL: A ceiling of about 500,000 people with a right to asylum per year has been discussed in Berlin for some time now.
Gentiloni: And a united Europe will also manage to send hundreds of thousands of migrants, who don't have the right to asylum, back to their homelands. Though that, given the number of flights necessary, would be of a scale reminiscent of the Berlin Airlift.
SPIEGEL: Does Europe need to be more clear that we can't take in everybody who is looking for a better life?
Gentiloni: The message that "we can't take in everybody" is imperative. At the same time, the decision as to who has a right to asylum needs to be made in Brussels. It is clear that several countries, in the Balkans for example, need to be considered countries of safe origin. But others like, in my opinion, Eritrea, undoubtedly need to be considered a country of origin with a valid claim to asylum. And with a third group of states, like Nigeria for example, each individual case needs to be evaluated. Then there are also very controversial cases like Afghanistan. In any case, united European action is needed. This argument for Europeanization may sound utopian, but there is no alternative.
SPIEGEL: So far, Italy has built three of the six promised "hotspots" for the registration of refugees. Thus far, they have had the reputation for being departure points for illegal immigrants. Your authorities have been hopelessly overwhelmed with the surge in refugees and their redistribution.
SPIEGEL: Do you think the future of the EU is at risk because of the refugee crisis?
Gentiloni: You could put it that way. Because this crisis has an effect on other things: on the referendum of the British about their exit from the EU or on the gains by populists in several countries. This mixture endangers the future of Europe. We are currently experiencing probably the toughest crisis in the history of the EU. The touchstone for whether we can overcome it will be the subject of immigration. Read the full story here.